Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.


facebook-icon.png


twitter_logo[1].gif



9780393088953.png

9780521746472.png

0810888688.gif

0810882728.gif

Recently in Reviews

Kaufmann's first Otello: Royal Opera House, London

Out of the blackness, Keith Warner’s new production of Verdi’s Otello explodes into being with a violent gesture of fury. Not the tempest raging in the pit - though Antonio Pappano conjures a terrifying maelstrom from the ROH Orchestra and the enlarged ROH Chorus hurls a blood-curdling battering-ram of sound into the auditorium. Rather, Warner offers a spot-lit emblem of frustrated malice and wrath, as a lone soldier fiercely hurls a Venetian mask to the ground.

Don Carlo in Marseille

First mounted in 2015 at the Opéra National de Bordeaux this splendid Don Carlo production took stage just now at the Opéra de Marseille with a completely different cast and conductor. This Marseille edition achieved an artistic stature rarely found hereabouts, or anywhere.

Diamanda Galás: Savagery and Opulence

Unconventional to the last, Diamanda Galás tore through her Barbican concert on Monday evening with a torrential force that shattered the inertia and passivity of the modern song recital. This was operatic activism, pure and simple. Dressed in metallic, shimmering black she moved rather stately across the stage to her piano - but there was nothing stately about what unfolded during the next 90 minutes.

Schubert Wanderer Songs - Florian Boesch, Wigmore Hall

A summit reached at the end of a long journey: Florian Boesch and Malcolm Martineau at the Wigmore Hall, as the two-year Complete Schubert Song series draws to a close. Unmistakably a high point in the whole traverse. A well-planned programme of much-loved songs performed exceptionally well, with less well known repertoire presented with intelligent flourish.

La Bohème in San Francisco

In 2008 it was the electrifying conducting of Nicola Luisotti and the famed Mimì of Angela Gheorghiu, in 2014 it was the riveting portrayals of Michael Fabbiano’s Rodolfo and Alexey Markov’s Marcelo. Now, in 2017, it is the high Italian style of Erika Grimaldi’s Mimì — and just about everything else!

A heart-rending Jenůfa at Grange Park Opera

Katie Mitchell’s 1998 Welsh National Opera production of Janáček’s first mature opera, Jenůfa, is a good choice for Grange Park Opera’s first season at its new home, West Horsley Place. Revived by Robin Tebbutt, Mitchell and designer Vicki Mortimer’s 1930s urban setting emphasises the opera’s lack of sentimentality and subjectivism, and this stark realism is further enhanced by the narrow horseshoe design of architect Wasfi Kani’s ‘Theatre in the Woods’ whose towering walls and narrow width seem to add further to the weight of oppression which constricts the lives of the inhabitants.

Pelléas et Mélisande at Garsington Opera

“I am nearer to the greatest secrets of the next world than I am to the smallest secrets of those eyes!” So despairs Golaud, enflamed by jealousy, suspicious of his mysterious wife Mélisande’s love for his half-brother Pelléas. Michael Boyd’s thought-provoking new production of Debussy’s Pelléas et Mélisande at Garsington Opera certainly ponders plentiful secrets: of the conscience, of the subconscious, of the soul. But, with his designer Tom Piper, Boyd brings the opera’s dreams and mysteries into landscapes that are lit, symbolically and figuratively, with precision.

Carmen: The Grange Festival

The Grange Festival, artistic director Michael Chance, has opened at Northington Grange giving everyone a chance to see what changes have arisen from this change of festival at the old location. For our first visit we caught the opening night of Annabel Arden's new production of Bizet's Carmen on Sunday 11 June 2017. Conducted by Jean-Luc Tingaud with the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra in the pit, the cast included Na'ama Goldman as Carmen, Leonardo Capalbo as Don Jose, Shelley Jackson as Micaela and Phillip Rhodes as Escamillo. There were also two extra characters, Aicha Kossoko and Tonderai Munyevu as Commere and Compere. Designs were by Joanna Parker (costume co-designer Ilona Karas) with video by Dick Straker, lighting by Peter Mumford. Thankfully, the opera comique version of the opera was used, with dialogue by Meredith Oakes.

Don Giovanni in San Francisco

San Francisco Opera revved up its 2011 production of Don Giovanni with a new directorial team and a new conductor. And a blue-chip cast.

Dutch National Opera puts on a spellbinding Marian Vespers

A body lies in half-shadow, surrounded by an expectant gathering. Our Father is intoned in Gregorian chant. The solo voices bloom into a chorus with a joyful flourish of brass.

Into the Wood: A Midsummer Night's Dream at Snape Maltings

‘I know a bank where the wild thyme blows, Where Oxlips and the nodding Violet grows.’ In her new production of Britten’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Netia Jones takes us deep into the canopied groves of Oberon’s forest, luring us into the nocturnal embrace of the wood with a heady ‘physick’ of disorientating visual charms.

Rigoletto in San Francisco

Every once in a while a warhorse redefines itself. This happened last night in San Francisco when Rigoletto propelled itself into the ranks of the great masterpieces of opera as theater — the likes of Falstaff and Tristan and Rossini’s Otello.

My Fair Lady at Lyric Opera of Chicago

In its spring musical production of Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe’s My Fair Lady Lyric Opera of Chicago has put together an ensemble which does ample justice to the wit and lyrical beauty of the well-known score.

Henze: Elegie für junge Liebende

Hans Werner Henze’s compositions include ten fine symphonies, various large choral and religious works, fourteen ballets (among them one, Undine, that ranks the greatest of modern times), numerous prominent film scores, and hundreds of additional works for orchestra, chamber ensemble, solo instruments or voice. Yet he considered himself, above all, a composer of opera.

Werther at Manitoba Opera

If opera ultimately is about bel canto, then one need not look any further than Manitoba Opera’s company premiere of Massenet’s Werther, its lushly scored portrait of an artist as a young man that also showcased a particularly strong cast of principal artists. Notably, all were also marking their own role debuts, as well as this production being the first Massenet opera staged by organization in its 44-year history.

Seattle: A seamlessly symphonic L’enfant

Seattle Symphony’s “semi-staged” presentation of L’enfant et les sortilèges was my third encounter with Ravel’s 1925 one-act “opera.” It was incomparably the most theatrical, though the least elaborate by far.

Color and Drama in Two Choral Requiems from Post-Napoleonic France

The Requiem text has brought out the best in many composers. Requiem settings by Mozart, Verdi, and Fauré are among the most beloved works among singers and listeners alike, and there are equally wondrous settings by Berlioz and Duruflé, as well as composers from before 1750, notably Jean Gilles.

Der Rosenkavalier: Welsh National Opera in Cardiff

Olivia Fuchs' new production of Richard Strauss's Der Rosenkavalier is a co-production between Welsh National Opera and Theater Magdeburg. The production debuted in Magdeburg last year and now Welsh National Opera is presenting the production as part of its Summer season, the company's first Der Rosenkavalier since 1990 (when the cast included Rita Cullis as the Marschallin and Amanda Roocroft making her role debut as Sophie).

Don Giovanni takes to the waves at Investec Opera Holland Park

There’s no reason why Oliver Platt’s imaginative ‘concept’ for this new production of Don Giovanni at Investec Opera Holland Park shouldn’t work very well. Designer Neil Irish has reconstructed a deck of RMS Queen Mary - the Cunard-White Star Line’s flag-ship cruiser during the 1930s, that golden age of trans-Atlantic cruising. Spanning the entire width of the OHP stage, the deck is lined with port-holed cabin doors - perfect hideaways for one of the Don’s hasty romantic dalliances.

"Recreated" Figaro at Garsington delights

After the preceding evening’s presentation of Annilese Miskimmon’s sparkling production of Handel’s Semele - an account of marital infidelity in immortal realms - the second opera of Garsington Opera’s 2017 season brought us down to earth for more mundane disloyalties and deceptions amongst the moneyed aristocracy of the eighteenth-century, as presented by John Cox in his 2005 production of Mozart’s Le nozze di Figaro.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Reviews

Renée Fleming as Marschallin [Photo by Ken Howard courtesy of The Metropolitan Opera]
26 Oct 2009

Der Rosenkavalier at the MET

The Met’s production of Der Rosenkavalier still arouses gasps from audience members as the curtain rises on each set — and laughter at appropriate moments — and tears at others.

Richard Strauss: Der Rosenkavalier

Octavian: Susan Graham; Marschallin: Renée Fleming; Sophie: Miah Persson; Baron Ochs: Kristin Sigmundsson; Italian Singer: Barry Banks; Faninal: Hans-Joachim Ketelsen; Annina: Wendy White. Conducted by Edo de Waart. Metropolitan Opera. Performance of October 19.

Above: Renée Fleming as Marschallin

All photos by Ken Howard courtesy of The Metropolitan Opera

 

If it had been redesigned and restaged by Luc Bondy of this season’s Tosca, the rising curtain would not show us a splendid rococo bedroom with St. Stephen’s Cathedral subtly phallic in the distance but would be placed in an underground dormitory where three strapping stablehands would service the Marschallin whenever Octavian took a breather. No doubt we will live to see such a Rosenkavalier. For the moment, happily, we’ve still got the forty-year-old Nathaniel Merrill production on Robert O’Hearn’s sets, in which pretty much every action seems to take place synchronically with descriptions of or references to that action in Strauss’s score. How very Old Hat! (The hats — and gowns and wigs and uniforms — are probably less old, actually, though still in the proper style.)

Persson_Sophie.pngMiah Persson as Sophie

Last Monday, the production looked spiffy — how much of it is original and not rebuilt and repainted, I wonder? — and Edo de Waart led a sparkling performance of this most graciously autumnal of chestnuts. The comic business may be familiar, but it went off without a hitch, from the well-behaved lapdog and the wheezing lawyer in Act I to the dozen sword-waving hussars in Act II to the raucous children in Act III. Stage direction is credited to Robin Guarino, and there are some touches I don’t remember: Did the children always mistake Valzacchi and Faninal for their Papa and have to be rerouted? (That was funny.) Did the egotistical Singer (Barry Banks, in full satirical glory) always trample his music in disgust when leaving the levee? (So was that.) Did Baron Ochs always try to make out with another, more willing maid of the Marschallin when Mariandel proved elusive? Most interesting of all, maybe, did the Marschallin always totter about on an imaginary crutch when daydreaming of her future, aged self? Or has Renée Fleming come up with that bit in the years since she sang it last? She possesses comic chops she has scarcely used in her prima donna career — as has been true of many great stars.

What all this shows is the novelty that can be added, as casts change and work out new business, even in the most traditional stagings of thrice-familiar operas.

ROSENKAVALIER_Fleming_and_Graham_3750.pngSusan Graham as Octavian and Renée Fleming as Marschallin

As she has approached the Marschallin’s years (allowing for inflation of the youthful stage from the 1760s to our era), Fleming’s voice has grown thinner, less penetrating on top but fuller, more satisfying in the lower reaches, with less of the famous velvet cream that thrills her fans but annoys those of us who have found her phrasing inexact. These sins were always less noticeable in German roles anyway — Strauss keeps her on her mettle. She was humorous here, as suits a Viennese, and maintained hauteur without the goddess-like dimension Kiri Te Kanawa used to bring, perhaps inappropriately, to the final scene.

Susan Graham makes a more convincing bumptious boy than she does a graceful lady in certain other roles. While Fleming’s voice has lost some luster on top, Graham’s I find thinner, ungraceful, in the lower reaches, more inclined to the blundering quality of “Mariandel,” even when she is singing Octavian’s lines. Her acting is appealing in both the amorous scenes with Fleming and the “flirtatious” punches she gives the Baron whenever he grabs “Mariandel” inappropriately — but the dramatic peak of the night came when Graham and Miah Persson’s Sophie stopped dead, half bowing, eye to eye, infatuated at first glance at the presentation of the rose and seemed almost unable to continue in their aristocratic ritual.

ROSENKAVALIER_Fleming_Graham_Sigmundsson_Persson_4461.pngSusan Graham as Octavian, Renée Fleming as Marschallin, Miah Persson as Sophie and Kristin Sigmundsson as Baron Ochs

Miah Persson has a lively, energetic, easy high soprano, vocally lacking nothing called for by the part, but she lacked for me certain ideal Sophic qualities: there was less girlishness, less poutiness than with most. She was a woman, not a child — but Sophie is specifically a naïve fifteen. Her chatter on being introduced to the Marschallin was too calm for chatter, her breasts seemed awfully prominent and exposed for a girl fresh from a convent, and her grin is too wide; too, she is the tallest Sophie ever to grace this production — she has all the goods for Sophie, but she isn’t Sophie, at least not in this production. Perhaps they play the part more maturely in her native Sweden, a country sadly lacking in aristocratic convents.

Kristin Sigmundsson, tall even beside Susan Graham, made a grabby, sleazy, stingy, you-love-him-because-you-loathe-him Baron Ochs. His grainy voice is not what one would want in a lover in any case, and both his topmost and bottom notes were weak to inaudibility, but he inhabited the role to perfection. Hans-Joachim Ketelsen sang a fine Faninal, less dignified than some — but then, the man is a ridiculous snob, redeemed only because the piece is a comedy with Mozartean aspirations. Wendy White, as Annina, and Jennifer Check, as Sophie’s governess had the loudest voices on stage, though Jeremy Galyon’s policeman came close.

Some of the less well-judged cutenesses that afflicted recent revivals are gone, and the entire presentation is snappier. Either Robin Guarino or Edo de Waart should have most of the credit, but all hands win applause.

John Yohalem

Send to a friend

Send a link to this article to a friend with an optional message.

Friend's Email Address: (required)

Your Email Address: (required)

Message (optional):